Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

ICES20 logo

Use the "back" button of your browser to return to the list of abstracts.


Lucie BUFFAVAND, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

In this presentation, I offer insights from my filming experience in Mela, south-west Ethiopia. When the date of the generation-set naming ceremony of a sub-group of Mela was approaching, a Mela friend insisted that I should be there to video-record it. The ceremony occurs about every 40 years, and my friend – a ritual expert – was anxious to have it recorded so that later generations will not forget the "right" way to perform it. This experience and the resulting film raise different issues. Firstly, the film fixes the "proper" course of the ceremony in the view of the ritual expert - at the same time as it gives evidence of the disagreements among elders about it in the film itself. Secondly, during editing, I had to compose with different audiences: how to give structure to the film while respecting the wishes of Mela to have a faithful record of their ceremony? Finally, I want to emphasis how ethnographic films can contribute to a specific form of anthropological knowledge, in this case by bringing out aspects of the ritual that are not as easily conveyed in writing, such as its aesthetics, its materiality and its rhythm.